South Africa v India, 2nd ODI, Johannesburg January 16, 2011

We weren't smart enough - Smith

When Graeme Smith was "done by a good slower ball" with the score on 152 for 5, there was a sense that the domino effect and South Africa's batting line-up were on a collision course. South Africa only needed 39 runs to win, and with five wickets in hand it should have been a doddle, but they tripped over their long tail and gave Wanderers it's most thrilling finish since the 438 game.

At the post-match press conference, no one wanted to ask Smith the obvious question because the answer was there on his face for all to see. Smith looked a downcast, disappointed and, in some ways, quietly angry man. There were no excuses. There was no arrogance, and no sense that he was feeling hard done by, despite Johan Botha having been given lbw when the ball hit only bat at a crucial stage of the game. There was just an empty, expressionless man who was clearly unhappy with the world.

"We weren't smart enough, especially with the bat," Smith said. South Africa allowed India to defend the second-lowest total at Wanderers, after the hosts had reached a position from where they could have won with at least ten overs to spare. They had no business losing, with Smith's 77 setting them up and the chance to go 2-0 up in the series presented to them on a platter.

The pitch, traditionally loaded with runs, was not vastly different to those of the past. The moisture may have made it slightly more difficult for batting, but it wasn't a snake pit, and Smith admitted that his batsmen needed to show more commitment. "I don't think it was a free flowing wicket, it was not easy to play your shots, you had to work hard out there. It required a solid performance."

Smith was the master of solidity, punishing the bad balls and setting a brisk pace. There were periods when it looked like both Colin Ingram and JP Duminy would able to hang around with him. Without Jacques Kallis and the experience he offers, one of the two had to play a more mature role. Ingram eventually fell to Harbhajan, and there was little he could do about that, but Duminy was criminal in going for the big heave-ho and getting caught on the long-on boundary for 13. Smith didn't name and shame but he may well have been referring to that moment when he said, "We needed to be a bit more solid, instead of searching for those glory shots."

David Miller, whose position has also been under scrutiny, showed his ability to hit those glory shots with three fours and stunning six straight down the ground. Although he didn't go out to a big shot, he wasn't balanced enough while pulling Zaheer Khan. Perhaps Smith's statement also made reference to that.

It would be cruel to think the captain was talking about Wayne Parnell, who played a cut straight to point with two runs and ample time left to win. Parnell's heartache was evident as he bit his helmet strap and stood statue like for what seemed like hours after he was dismissed. He should have had more trust in Lonwabo Tsotsobe, King Midas on the night, who surely would have turned his bat to gold as well, and taken a single to let the game reach its obvious conclusion. Parnell may still be too young and inexperienced to have thought of all of that, and that's why South Africa have to find someone with a bit more game time under his belt to carry such responsibilities.

Smith thought he should have led his team to the finish. "If I could have batted through, it would have been wonderful. I don't think I gave my wicket away though and we still should have got over the line."

Albie Morkel's name will be bandied about, probably before Faf du Plessis', as the allrounder with experience to come in and carry the load. For Smith, it's not player replacement that is needed, but rather thought replacement. "We have to pick ourselves up. We haven't become bad players because of one performance. We'll have to work on our decision making."

While they do that, they'll also have to buy earplugs to avoid hearing the one word that will hurt the most, particularly before a World Cup. Smith was lucky he didn't hear it during the post-match presser. Uttering the ch-word here is close to committing treason. Most were thinking it, though, even India's captain MS Dhoni. "It's one thing that will always follow them whether the opposition says it or not, like India and our record in tri-series finals. It's one thing that will haunt them and you can't really run away from it."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent